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Animating CSS3 Image Filters

css / filters

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 25 seconds

In recent articles I’ve shown how to create cross-browser image with and : converting color photographs to black and white and sepia-tone, as well as blurring them. The next obvious step is to animate these effects.

Right now, these effects can be fully transitioned only in the most recent builds of Chrome and Safari; other will show a “flick” between two filtered states, with no animation. As a rule, I don’t show web development techniques until they can be duplicated in at least two different browsers, but in this case, the effects are so neat (and expected to be fully supported in all browser versions so soon) that I’m making an exception.

You can see how your browser performs with animated filter effects in the example at the top of this article (a variation on my earlier “Animated Card Fan” effect, with individual transitions on each card when it is hovered over).

Greyscale to Color Image Transition

An obvious use of an animated filter is to transition an image from greyscale to color on mouseover, an ideal effect for a portfolio or image gallery.

The code is surprisingly simple: first, we set up the image:

<img src="roma.jpg" alt="Roma" id="roma">

Add the filter below it:

<svg version="1.1" xmlns="">
<filter id="greyscale">
<feColorMatrix type="matrix" values="0.3333 0.3333 0.3333 0 0
0.3333 0.3333 0.3333 0 0
0.3333 0.3333 0.3333 0 0
0 0 0 1 0" />

Then turn it into greyscale, using the technique I discussed in the earlier article:

img#roma {
-webkit-filter: grayscale(100%);
filter: grayscale(100%);
filter: url(#greyscale);
filter: gray;
transition: 1s;

To transition the effect, we must set the greyscale filter to the opposite value for browsers that support it, and to none for other browsers:

img#roma:hover {
-webkit-filter: grayscale(0);
filter: grayscale(0);
filter: none;

In Webkit-based browsers, you’ll find that the black and white image transitions into color; in other current browsers, the change happens instantaneously.

Sharpening A Blurry Image

Transitioning a blur takes very much the same approach: I’ve covered the “off” setting in a previous article, so I won’t repeat it here.

Sepia Tone To Color Image

Colorizing a sepiatone image takes much the same approach as greyscale-to-color. The markup:

<img src="bike.jpg" alt="Bike on a Roman street" id="bike">

I’ve covered the SVG sepia filter in another article, so I won’t repeat it here.

The setup CSS:

img#bike {
-webkit-filter: sepia(100%);
filter: sepia(100%);
filter: url(#sepia);
background-color: #5E2612;
filter: alpha(opacity = 50);
transition: 1s;

The hover state CSS:

img#bike:hover {
-webkit-filter: sepia(0);
filter: sepia(0);
filter: alpha(opacity = 100);
filter: none;
Play with the code for these transitions on Codepen
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